Build an Acne Skin Care Routine For Your Skin Type

The Best Custom Acne Skin Care Routine

To find the best acne products, you first need to know your skin type.  You may have dark spots after a pimple clears, acne scabs or other skin issues that your personalized acne skincare routine should address.

Eight of the 16 Baumann Skin Types have acne and each skin type needs a different acne skin care routine. I will share with you my skin care routine advice for acne prone skin that I use for my patients. This blog will discuss how to build a regimens for oily, dry and sensitive skin with acne and for hormonal acne and cystic acne.

Take the acne skin care routine quiz so I can give you a dermatologist-recommended skin care routine for acne-prone skin that is custom for you.  

The best part is -

After you take the quiz- we give you  a list of good products and You get to pick the skin care brands to use in your acne skin care routine! 

For every skin care routine step, you can choose acne skin care products from many brands. These products are chosen for you with a complex dermatologist-developed algorithm based on how you answer the quiz questions and what your skin type is.

 You get to further customize the regimen based on your favorite skin care brands, your preferences and budget.  If you want natural products or are vegan; if you want clean beauty products or recyclable packaging; or you think medical grade skin care products are best for acne- we have a custom acne skin care routine for you!

Our guidance will help you build the best custom acne skin care routine for your unique needs.

Best routines for cystic acne

Skin Care Routine for Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is harder to treat than regular acne because the acne develops deep inside the hair follicle and it can be hard for skin care products to penetrate that deep into the skin.

This is why dermatologists usually treat cystic acne with an acne medication pill such as a:

  •  retinoid like Accutane
  • antibiotic like doxycycline
  • hormone blocking pill like spironolactone

If you choose to use one of those acne pills, your skin type will change once you begin so do not buy any skin care products until you know how oily or dry you will be on the acne medication.  Accutane and spironolactone can change oily skin types to dry skin types.

If you decide to try an acne skin care routine before you try oral acne medications, here is a skin care routine for cystic acne when you are not on a pill for acne.

Isotretinoin (accutane)

Skin Care Routine for Cystic Acne

Step 1 in AM- Wash your face using a low pH cleanser

A low pH cleanser helps loosen skin cells so acne medications can get in the skin.  It lowers the skin pH so it is less attractive to acne causing bacteria, and it helps loosen dirt and debris from clogged pores.

Unless you have dry skin, a salicylic acid cleanser is the best to use to wash your face in the morning cystic acne skin care routine. It may be too strong to use twice a day so we recommend using a different cleanser at night if your skin gets easily irritated and sensitive.

Step 2 in AM- Apply eye cream

An eye cream is optional and protects the thin eye skin from any acne treatments that come next in the routine.

Step 3 in AM- Apply acne treatment product

There are many types of acne treatment products that you can use in step 3 of your morning regimen. These are choices you have, but only choose one of these from the list:

  • Acne medication from your doctor  (not tretinoin)
  • Hydroxyacid peel pads
  • Hydroxyacid toner
  • Benzoyl peroxide gel

Apply ¼ teaspoon of gel or cream to the entre face or use the pads as directed.

Types of Acne Treatments for Step 3

Step 4 AM- Moisturize with a noncomedogenic moisturizer

The type of moisturizer that is best will depend on your Baumann Skin Type but it must be noncomedogenic.

Very oily skin types who have no irritation from their acne products can skip a moisturizer.

Oily skin types may prefer a light humectant moisturizer with hyaluronic acid (HA). If your moisturizer has hyaluronic acid in it, remember that it could make your other acne products too strong by increasing their absorption. If benzoyl peroxide or retinoids irritate your skin and you plan to use them, do not choose a hyaluronic acid moisturizer for your acne routine.

Dry skin types should choose a barrier repair moisturizer.

Step 5 AM- Sunscreen

If you have oily skin, you may not need a moisturizer if your sunscreen is very hydrating.

Make sure your SPF is noncomedogenic.

Evening Cystic Acne Skin Care Routine

Step 1 in PM- Wash your face completely

Step 2 in AM- Apply eye cream

The other products you put on your skin at night can get on your pillowcase and then on your eyelids and cause eye irritation.  Using an eye cream to protect your skin at  night is even more important in the evening regimen, especially if you use a retinoid or benzoyl peroxide cystic acne treatment.

Step 3 in PM- Apply acne treatment product

Night time is the best time to apply a retinoid because they are light sensitive.  However, if you apply them in step 3, too much will get into the skin and cause side effects.  

In this 3rd step of your night routine for cystic acne, the best product to use will depend on your skin type.  These are the types of ingredients your step 3 night product should have depending on your other skin concerns:

Step 4 PM- Moisturize with a noncomedogenic moisturizer

Step 5 PM- Use a retinoid

The evening routine step 5 retinoid is the most important step of a cystic acne skin care routine.

Th rest of the routine is designed the way it is so you will be able to use a retinoid without getting too irritated.

Do not skip this step!

When you have cystic acne, use the strongest retinoid you can use without getting redness or stinging.

Skin care for acne prone skin

Skin Care Routine for Oily Acne-prone Skin

Oily acne prone skin types usually can tolerate acne medications without getting too irritated. The acne routine steps described above are also good for oily skin types.

Oily acne prone skin types should use the following ingredients in their acne routine:

They should ask their dermatologist about the prescription medication Winlevi (clascoterone) because it helps reduce skin oiliness by decreasing sebum production.  It also helps unclog pores.  I like to use it in my skin care routines for oily acne-prone patients in Step 3 of the AM and PM routines.

Skin Care Routine for Acne-prone Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin types are prone to inflammation so they cannot use a lot of harsh acne products and exfoliants and strong foaming cleansers or their skin will get very inflamed.

They should follow the same 5 acne skin care routine steps in the morning and night routine as other acne types.

Acne-prone sensitive skin routines should include anti-inflammatory ingredients in step 3 and step 4 of the regimen such as:

 If you have sensitive skin, let us guide you by taking the quiz and seeing the custom skin care routine for acne-prone sensitive skin.

Skin care routines for hormonal acne

Hormonal Acne Skin Care Routine

Hormonal acne tends to occur along the jaw line and gets worse just before menstruation. When you take a blue light photograph with the canfield camera, we do not see a lot of acne causing bacteria light up like we do with other types of acne. 

This means that antimicrobials like benzoyl peroxide, silver, and antibiotics will be less effective in a skin care routine to treat hormonal acne.

Consider trying Winlevi (clascoterone) in Step 3 of your morning and night acne routine.  You will need a prescription for that.  You can find a doctor or medical provider near you at this link.

Skin Care Routine for Acne Scars

Once your acne has cleared, you may be left with pink spots and dots where the pimples were.  These are not true acne scars and will go away with time.

Use anti-redness ingredients like caffeine in your acne scar routine.

Use the right skin care routine for your Baumann Skin Type with exfoliants in the regimen will help these pink marks clear faster.

Natural ingredients for acne prone skin

Natural Skin Care Routine for Acne Prone Skin

There are many anti-acne ingredients from plants that you can use to treat acne. For example, willow bark has salicylic acid in it.

You can use a natural product in every step of your acne routine except the evening 5th retinoid step.  There are no natural retinoid products that work to treat acne.  Carrots, beta carotene, and sweet potatoes have Vitamin A, but they cannot penetrate deep enough to treat acne naturally.

So my advice is- use natural acne products in every step of your routine except the retinoid step.

There are also many clean acne products, so you can have a completely clean acne skin care routine.

Just take the quiz and we will give you an acne skin care routine and many product choices.  You can choose the natural and clean products for your acne routine. 

Simple Acne Routine Steps

The key to treating acne is killing the acne-causing bacteria, clearing pores and calming inflammation.

These are the basic steps in any acne routine.

You do not need to do all of these steps, this is just a basic diagram to show you which routine step to use your acne product.

If you want to know a simple 3 step routine to treat acne, take the quiz and when you get your custom acne routine, choose the affordable option that has the 3 most important products to use to clear your acne.  Most likely these will be:

  1. Step 1 Cleanser
  2. Step 2 Salicylic acid or glycolic acid
  3. Step 3 Moisturizer or retinoid

Dermatologist Recommended Skin Care Routine for Acne Prone Skin

This is the structure that dermatologists use to customize your acne regimen.  You do not need every one of these steps, it depends on your skin type.

acne routine steps

AM Acne Skin Care Routine -

5 Morning steps in an acne routine

  1. Cleanser- AHAs or BHAs unless beginning a retinoid
  2. Eye product to protect delicate eye area
  3. Acne Treatment – acne toner, acne cream or acne serum
  4. Non comedogenic Moisturizer
  5. Non comedogenic sunscreen

PM Acne Skin Care Routine-

5 Evening steps in an acne routine

  1. Cleanser
  2. Eye product to protect delicate eye area
  3. Acne Treatment – acne toner, acne cream or acne serum
  4. Non comedogenic Moisturizer
  5. Retinoid

Acne skin care routines need to prevent and treat acne by targeting different causes of acne.

It is also important to treat any underlying issues that can complicate acne treatments and increase the risk of side effects such as:

  • dehydration
  • inflammation
  • pigmentation

This is why acne should be treated with a skin care routine personalized for your Baumann Skin Type.

acne is a 8 week cycle

How long does it take an acne skin care routine to work?

Acne is an inflammatory condition of the hair follicle that takes time to clear.

Acne is an 8 week cycle, so the acne skin care routine that you start today will need 8 weeks to work.

Acne treatments should be used consistently to prevent acne.

Acne is considered Type 1 Sensitive Skin and can coexist with other types of sensitive skin.

Acne is caused by Cutibacterium acnes which leads to disrupted desquamation, clogged pores and inflammation.

How to Build a Skin Care Routine for Acne?

The best skin care routine for acne depends upon what other types of sensitive skin you have such as:

All these skin issues must be taken into account when designing your acne skin care routine.

Every product in your regimen should target at least one of these issues and should not inactivate other products in the routine.

How you layer products in an acne regimen is very important to get good results.

If you have ever been dry and irritated from an acne skin care routine- you were probably on the wrong cleansers and moisturizers for your Baumann Skin Type®.

Take the skin type quiz to diagnose your skin type and get a personalized acne skin care routine.

We will show you which brands are right for your skin type and best to treat your acne.

Acne routines that also treat dark spots

Acne Routine To Remove Dark Spots Caused By Pimples?

Use a non comedogenic skin lightener to treat dark spots that you get from acne.

You can use either a vitamin C serum or a skin lightener in step 3 of your am or pm acne routine, but tyrosinase inhibitors work best to erase dark spots from acne.

Here are the best serums to use in your acne routine to lighten dark spots:


Derma Made Mela Fade

Medature Hydrobright

PCA Skin Pigment Gel

Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense

SkinMedica Lytera 2.0

Acne skin care regimens are difficult to build without a dermatologist's advice.

Let us guide you to the best products and skin care brands to use in your acne routine!

Best References and Scientific Publications on Acne Skin Care Routines

  1. Baumann L. Ch. 16 Acne and Ch. 35 Skin care Regimen Design of Baumann's Cosmetic Dermatology 3rd Ed (McGraw Hill 2022)
  2. Baumann, L. Chapters 75-80 in  Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients (McGraw Hill 2015)
  3. Dréno, B., Araviiskaia, E., Kerob, D., Andriessen, A., Anfilova, M., Arenbergerova, M., ... & Fabbrocini, G. (2020). Nonprescription acne vulgaris treatments: Their role in our treatment armamentarium—An international panel discussion. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 19(9), 2201-2211.
  4. Shah, S. K., & Alexis, A. F. (2010). Acne in skin of text-align:left;">Journal of dermatological treatment, 21(3), 206-211.
  5. Araviiskaia, E., Layton, A. M., Estebaranz, J. L. L., Ochsendorf, F., & Micali, G. (2022). The synergy between pharmacological regimens and Dermocosmetics and its impact on adherence in acne treatment. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2022.
  6. Del Rosso, J. Q., Gold, M., Rueda, M. J., Brandt, S., & Winkelman, W. J. (2015). Efficacy, safety, and subject satisfaction of a specified skin care regimen to cleanse, medicate, moisturize, and protect the skin of patients under treatment for acne vulgaris. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 8(1), 22.
  7. Rodan, K., Fields, K., & Falla, T. J. (2017). Efficacy of a twice-daily, 3-step, over-the-counter skincare regimen for the treatment of acne vulgaris. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 3-9.
  8. Conforti, C., Giuffrida, R., Fadda, S., Fai, A., Romita, P., Zalaudek, I., & Dianzani, C. (2021). Topical dermocosmetics and acne vulgaris. Dermatologic Therapy, 34(1), e14436.

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